Who should be my referees?

11th May 2013 at 01:00

Who should be my referees?



Job applications typically ask for two referees, so who should you choose?


Your first referee will be the Headteacher, of course. The official wording is your current or most recent employer in a job involving working with children or young people. In theory, that is the Director of Education and Children’s Services at County Hall. but what they really mean is your Head, so as soon as you see a likely job, you should go and see him or her to say that you are looking to move forward in your career, and would like to name him as your referee. This is just a matter of courtesy.


As for your second referee, a lot of people believe that you cannot have two referees from the same school, but that’s not true. Your second referee could be a deputy head, your head of department or your head of year, depending on the type of post that you are applying for. In a primary school it could be the key stage co-ordinator.


In fact, if you have been at the school a long time, a reference from some time ago in another school is not much good, and from your Uni Tutor is even less useful: you have moved on, developed, honed your skills, since then.


 And, yes, you can have a retired Head or other colleague, or one who has moved to another school.  Just make it clear in the details what their status is.  Dr T Griff - former Head (retired) 2001-2009.   Mr B Brown, former DHT of my current school, now Head at X School.


If the head has only recently joined the school and hardly knows you, you still put him/her as the referee. Another senior or middle leader will be asked to draft the reference, which will then be signed by the head. Just make sure that you speak to all your referees before sending off your application; nothing is worse than having them finding out about it from a reference request.


Do I have to tell my Head I am applying elsewhere? 


There may be occasions where you feel that your current - or most recent - Headteacher is not an appropriate referee, because s/he will not write a supportive reference.  You may therefore feel that it's better to give someone else.


I have bad news for you.


Even if you don't put your current or most recent Head down, the school receiving your application will contact them anyway to ask about you. By phone probably, so there will be no record of him/her saying: Don't touch this candidate with a bargepole!  No, actually, I am wrong here, they won't contact your current Head.  They are more likely just to bin the application because you don't have her or him.


So your next solution is to avoid mentioning at all that you have been in that school?  Just leave a gap, or say something like Travelling abroad?  People with a bad experience in a school overseas, who perhaps jump ship, leaving without notice, are often tempted to do this.


Bad news again.  The school is likely to contact your two referees to ask them what you were doing in this period.  They are really obliged to, to make sure that you weren't detained At Her Majesty's Pleasure, or caught taking drugs into Thailand while travelling . . .


Can I omit, on an application, a period spent teaching abroad? 


The moral of this is: never leave a school on bad terms with the Headteacher.  Schools receiving applications are encouraged to contact your referees by phone, to contact other people who you have not even given as referees, and not to take everything at face value.


People sometimes believe that if you have not given a particular person or a particular school, that no-one can contact them to ask about you.  I'm afraid that they can, and may well do so.  A school may contact anyone it likes to ask about you, when you are applying for a job.  Including your Facebook page . . .


TIP: avoid at all costs giving an agency as a referee, if you can.


You should avoid giving agencies as referees whenever possible.  They tend to be very very brief with their references.


We can confirm that Dr Griff has been doing supply work with our agency in KS1 and KS2 since September 2012.


That's it.  The lot.  Nothing else.


Technically I don't think that they are actually your employers in many cases; it depends on your contract with them.  But in any case, when it says on an application form that one of your referees should be your current or most recent employer, they actually don't want an agency reference, precisely because they are useless. They would much rather have two school referees.


If you feel that you need to cover yourself about the current employer, you can put two school referees and then have a short sentence in your letter or statement saying something like this:


I have given two school-based referees, as they can speak with knowledge of my teaching skills and overall contribution to their schools.  However, should you also wish to contact my agency employer, the address is: The Rip-Off Agency, 123 Hill Street, Bristol BS3 4RT. 


Best wishes